By Eric Smith
EAGAN, Minn. — Football is finally on the horizon.
The Vikings hit a milestone of sorts Wednesday at Verizon Vikings Training Camp, holding their last team practice on Wednesday before Friday's preseason opener in New Orleans.
Minnesota practiced for roughly two hours in shells and shorts at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. The Vikings will hold a walk-through Thursday morning before heading to New Orleans.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. (CT).
Of the 87 players who do not have a Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) or Non-Football Injury (NFI) designation, tackle Brian O'Neill, tackle Aviante Collins, cornerback Kris Boyd and defensive end Ade Aruna did not practice. Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen did not participate in team periods.
Here are three observations from Wednesday's session:
1. Vets lead the way
It remains to be seen if any veteran players will be held out Friday night against the Saints. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday morning he planned on holding out "one or two" players.
That didn't stop a handful of Vikings veterans, especially tight end Kyle Rudolph and linebacker Eric Kendricks, from putting in a solid day's work in 1-on-1 drills.
The Vikings used an early portion of Wednesday's practice to have running backs and tight ends run routes against linebackers in pass coverage.
Rudolph made the catch of the session, using his right hand to corral a pass as he headed up the right seam against Eric Wilson. Rudolph also snuck past Anthony Barr earlier in the session on a nice route.
Rookie tight ends Irv Smith, Jr., and Brandon Dillon also impressed. Smith showed off his agility on a pair of routes, and Dillon drew a flag on his first attempt.
Kendricks showed off his coverage skills by forcing an incompletion intended for Dalvin Cook, one of the few misfires on the afternoon.
2. Catch of the day
Bisi Johnson continues to turn heads in training camp.
The seventh-round wide receiver has been getting some opportunities with the first-team offense of late, but he made the catch of the day with the second unit at Wednesday's practice.
With Sean Mannion at quarterback, Johnson snuck past the secondary and made a fine over-the-shoulder catch that would have been good for 50-plus yards and put the offense inside the 10-yard line.
Johnson's impressive catch came as Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer stood a few yards away.
3. Covering it all
Zimmer mentioned Wednesday that he's interested to see how players perform on special teams in the four upcoming preseason contests.
The Vikings put in extensive work in that phase Wednesday, as roughly a dozen players worked as gunners in punt coverage. The pairs didn't run the length of the field, instead covering about 20 yards while trying to track the ball and read the returner.
The coverage tandems were as follows: Mackensie Alexander and Jayron Kearse, Ameer Abdullah and Jeff Badet, Holton Hill and Alexander Hollins, Johnson and Laquon Treadwell, Davion Davis and Craig James, and Duke Thomas and Dillon Mitchell.
Hollins showed good awareness by catching a punt on a hop at the 2-yard line, while James and Thomas fielded their respective punts near the 5-yard line.
The drill also gave punter Matt Wile a chance to work on pinning his kicks inside the 10-yard line.